Behind the Scenes of Online Teaching
S. Gutiérrez

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It’s That Time . . .

As a class this semester, we explored various topics including tools for online teaching, the gamification of online classes, the migration process and modalities, best practices for discussion forums and grading, and even shared lens perspective assignments and approaches to keeping students engaged and learning/reading in the online setting. English Professors, John Warnock, curry mitchell, Jim Sullivan, and Tony Burman, facilitated these discussions, laying the groundwork for future online teaching. After completing this Spring 2016 sequence, I am inspired us to explore synchronous activities and, perhaps, to resuscitate my online avatar (I used a couple years when I was teaching online introductory composition). Most importantly, I discovered I did not have to comment on ALL my students posts and replies. (I am still feeling nervous about the latter one.)

What follow are my reflections this semester:

“Online Teaching? I Felt Like Jumping Out of a One-story Building” (Unit 1: A Framework for Teaching Online)

“The Locura or the Simplicity of Online Teaching” (Unit 2: Exploring Technology

“So You Do Not Understand the Directions . . . Hmm” (Unit 3: Developing Content)

“There Is Such a Thing as Too Much Feedback!” (Unit 4: Teaching the Writing Process Online)

“Do Online Students Learn? READ? WRITE? YEP!” (Unit 5: Reading and Discussion)

Not bad for a digital immigrant! 😉

Technology overload? Deep breaths can do wonders for tech anxiety.
Technology overload? Deep breaths can do wonders for tech anxiety. avatar

Boy, this week was a doozy! All I could think about was how much set-up an online class requires, and hoping that when I teach my first one I’ll have plenty of time to prepare. Warnock makes it seem simple and straightforward, but when I looked at all the possibilities for cool tools out there, it was nothing like simple. How is one to master even a few of these? And how, as Conrad and Donaldson insist, is one to ensure “all participants have the necessary skill level with the communication tools” used in the course (qtd in Warnock 19)? I guess it means I’ll have to make lots of handy teaching videos like curry, which will require me to have even more mastery of the tools than my students.

In my onsite class, I don’t use a ton of technology. I have been using Canvas for a few semesters and love the ease of setting up the course, the possibilities for altering the look of the class, and the course copy option (which I used very effectively this semester for the first time). I use Speedgrader, and I like the options available for grading. It looks so much cleaner than my handwritten scribbles that students had to decipher, and I like that I can mute the comments and work on all the papers together, giving me freedom to revise my comments. When I’m done grading, I unmute so students can see them. As far as wondering if grading online is effective, I have no guarantee that students are looking at my comments. I could assign a response paper about the comments, but I have yet to do that. I figure if students aren’t doing well and are looking to improve, they will look at the comments (Ha! Fingers crossed). To simplify my online course, I plan to use Canvas’ peer editing tool so students don’t have to learn a separate technology from the one they get from me. Plus, Turnitin’s peermark link we looked at this week was insanely overwhelming and caused many of my brain’s synapses to shut down. On the plus side, it made me really appreciate curry’s video on using Canvas’ PeerReview as a much more effective way for students to learn the system. That is, until I started thinking that I would have to make my own video for my own students, and down the rabbit-hole of worry I went: how will I ever make a video like this? I know how to log in as my student self, but that’s the extent of it. How will I get a sample paper to open? How will I assign that person as my student-self’s peer? Okay, deep breaths…

In my f2f classroom I use Google docs to collaboratively add to summaries of difficult texts, quote notes and other items that students can access at home through Canvas. The Google docs info link provided in this week’s bibliography reminded me of two other features that appeal to me: presentation sign-ups and student groups’ chat option alongside the groups’ shared document. Those are two items I haven’t taken advantage of yet, and I plan to implement immediately in my onsite course! I think Google docs could also be used like a big open discussion board, where students can workshop thesis statements or add information about the readings. And there might be some visual appeal to having everyone in one document rather than everyone’s separate threads/posts in a discussion board.

For online class lessons, I’m comfortable with Powerpoint and Prezi for info-heavy material.  I appreciate curry’s notion of Prezi as “interactive, self-pacing, and non-linear,” some traits I think can be effective for our wide range of learners. I haven’t used Prezi much myself, but I like the way the presentations look, apart from making me feel nauseous. I plan to use Screencast-o-matic for mini-lessons showing students how to use an area of our course (like curry has done), or as an addition to a Powerpoint or Prezi. Voice thread was new to me, and seemed cool. I could see starting a discussion of a text this way. I’m just wondering if some of these technologies are tech just to be tech, and not useful enough to warrant using them in a class. I really have to ask myself: does this tool warrant the learning curve? Does it do its job better than anything else? Is it overly complicated? Will we use it often? If any of those answers are “no,” I should probably pass.

I found it interesting/strange that Warnock relied on email for so many of the tasks in his online course. The last thing I want is to have hundreds of emails in my inbox to sort through, and which could very easily get lost in the fray. I’m assuming his heavy reliance on email stems from the book being almost 10 years old. Get revising, Warnock!

Given all the above, Warnock’s “Guideline 9: Don’t be any more complicated technologically than you have to be” (19) is becoming my new motto with the overwhelming amount of information and options this week. If/when I teach online, I’d like to find a few tools to use, mix them up, and use them throughout. I don’t want to overwhelm myself (or my students) with too many programs that all have a learning curve and bugs to work out. My experience with tech is that something always goes wrong with every technology at the beginning. When I first started this online certification, I couldn’t post on wordpress, then saving my screencast to youtube didn’t work, then I couldn’t embed my screencast in wordpress, and so on… Just posting and linking my first blog/video took close to an hour! The more outside websites students have to log in to and get to know is host to at least one student having a problem every time, and I don’t want time taken up with problem solving when I’d rather be teaching.

Whew! Thanks for reading!

 

An Exploration of Digital Reading Practices and Pedagogy
curry mitchell

The technology that supports active reading in digital environments is getting better. Common devices and freely available software make it possible to apply traditional, mindful reading practices to pdfs, digital textbooks, and Open Educational Resources. Still, these high-tech tools are not themselves enough to teach students how to meaningfully engage with text. Along with ever improving technologies and the exciting benefits of OER come a need to maximize the impact of classroom instruction, so students truly benefit from the reading/hearing/playing/watching/swiping they bring to new interactive modalities that are becoming ever more common in higher education.

The following list of resources and annotations seeks to explore:

  • How to support effective academic reading skills given the range of devices and apps present in our classrooms?
  • What new forms of effective reading are possible in networked, digital environments?
  • What digital practices best target comprehension and recall, critical reading and response, and/or active reading and intellectual engagement?
  • How to promote time management, preparedness, and accountability despite the distractions of digital access?

If you would like to contribute to this bibliography, please join our WritingwithMachines Canvas course and add your annotated resource to our Discussion on Digital Reading and Annotation before March 7th. Please join us March 8th from 7:00-8:00 in Zoom for a culminating discussion on pedagogy and demonstration of tools.

Thank you to Lisa Lane, dara, Rob Bond, Megen O’Donnel, Jim Julius, Denise Stephenson, and Anne Fleming for contributing!


Things to watch

Our Discussion in Zoom

Navigate to Lisa Lane’s Demonstration Notes and Tutorials, featured in our Zoom discussion

Using Mind-maps as a/during [Digital] reading process: Coggle for digital mind-mapping, by Anne Fleming, MiraCosta College Writing Center.

I have been working with several students who are frustrated with digital reading. Something I have been trying is both hand-written and digital mind-maps to interact with the text. When students mind-map, they slow down, process better, and their visual map of the information matches/ reflects some of their own cognitive processing. This video has some examples of hard copy and digital mapping and a few ways it can be used in a classroom setting. Here is the link to the Coggleit site.

MiraCosta’s Open Educational Lunch Extravaganza

Nicole Finkbeiner from OpenStax, Keynote

Student Panel

Faculty Panel

Things to Listen to

Assessing the Impact of Open Educational Resources hosted by Bonni Stachowiak of Vanguard University of Southern California with guest C. Edward Watson, the Associate VP for Quality, Advocacy, and LEAP Initiatives with AAC&U. Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast, http://teachinginhighered.com/podcast/assessing-impact-open-educational-resources/

A 30 minute podcast focused on the exciting impact of Open Education Resources on student success. The conversation offers compelling statistics and anecdotes, but it also arrives at one clear drawback stated by students about OER materials: digital content is harder to use than printed texts. Listen to this podcast to get excited about OER, and then explore the resources below that address the need to teach students how to succeed with digital resources.

Igniting Our Imagination in Digital Learning and Pedagogy hosted by Bonni Stachowiak of Vanguard University of Southern California with guest Remi Kalir, Assistant Professor, Information and Learning Technologies at CU Denver. Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast, http://teachinginhighered.com/podcast/igniting-imagination-digital-learning-pedagogy/

A 30 minute podcast that focuses on play as an approach to learning and accessing   digital annotation technologies like Hypothes.is.  The conversation explores social reading as a mode for professional development for faculty, but also digs at the potential combination of digital annotation with classroom discussion as a powerful means of accessing texts.

Things to Read

Beyond the Yellow Highlighter: Teaching Annotation Skills to Improve Reading Comprehension by Carol Porter-O’Donnell. English Journal, May 2004, http://www.collegewood.org/ourpages/auto/2014/8/17/63598523/Beyond%20the%20Yellow%20Highlighter.pdf

Most of us who teach in reading-heavy disciplines have, ourselves, developed effective reading habits that combine highlighting, post-it notes, dog-eared pages, marked moments, coffee stained favorites, and kinetic flipping-across-pages with one’s own hands instead of clicks. O’Donnell’s source offers analog (nostalgic?) touch-stones that we might start to imagine transporting into digital environments.

Recommended by Megen O’Donnel

Welcome to the Post Text World. Multiple contributors: Farhad Manjoo, John Yuyi, Nellie Bowles, Mike Issac, Claire Cain Miller, Sapna Maheshwari, Amanda Hess. The New York Times, 14 February 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/09/technology/the-rise-of-a-visual-internet.html

A mash-up of articles exploring current multi-modal mediums. While some articles offer angst, others, describe empowering modalities. The central question that threads these articles asks how traditional media consumption habits and routines will necessarily change. For us, that question might be: what shifts in classroom instruction should we adopt to facilitate more effective reading/playing/watching/listening/swiping?

Reading on Electronic Devices by Diego Bonilla. https://goo.gl/AFXF8i

An interactive tutorial. Bonilla weighs the pros and cons of using eReaders, focusing on the preferences, behaviors, and outcome goals a student or instructor might bring to an act of academic reading. This is a great source to start encounter early, to weigh the value of eReaders yourself.

Recommended by Jim Julius

Annotation Technologies: A Software and Research Review by Joanna Wolfe, University of Louisville. Computers and Composition (paywall: access through MCC Library). 5 October 2002, https://doi.org/10.1016/S8755-4615(02)00144-5 .

Most of the devices and programs discussed here are outdated, but the theory that underpin this study still ignites the pedagogical imagination on fire. In fact, some of the tools linked at the bottom of this bibliography seem to have caught up with Wolfe’s ambition. This is definitely worth skimming to gain a framework for thinking about current technologies and programs.

The Digital Reader, The Alphabetic Writer, and The Space Between: A Study in Digital Reading and Source-Based Writing by Tanya K. Rodrigue, Salem State University. Computers and Composition (paywall: access through MCC Library), 6 October 2017, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compcom.2017.09.005.

A one year study of first year college students who were taught “think-aloud” strategies–screen-casting while reading and responding out-loud–as a means to actively read digital texts. The video-audio think-alouds allow insight into “the cognitive and affective processes” students employ while reading in digital environments when their goal is to write a source-based paper. What’s interesting: many of these students demonstrate they are reading at the sentence-level opposed to the level of concepts or ideas when reading on screens. This article essentially calls for instruction supporting “reading strategies specific to digital environments.”

Social Reading and the Online Classroom (Part I of II) by Katherine Jewel, Teaching United States History, http://www.teachingushistory.co/2018/03/social-reading-and-the-online-classroom-part-i-of-ii.html

A survey of tools and classroom activites that promote collaborative exploration of sources. This is a great source to pair with your own exploration of Perusall (linked below under Things to Try), which will also be demoed in our Zoom discussion.

Recommended by Rob Bond

Writing in Online Courses edited by Phoebe Jackson and Christopher Weaver. Myers Education Press, 2018​.

Recommended by Denise Stephenson

Being a Better Online Reader by Marina Konnikova. The New Yorker, July 16. 2014, https://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/being-a-better-online-reader.

This article motivated me to read Proust and the Squid (also another great reading resource) and think about how our brains are structured and that relationship to the act of reading. What I like about this New Yorker article is how it discusses what digital reading seems to do to us. When we digitally read we skim and scan, we flit through other content, and we exhaust faster than reading with a physical text we can hold in our hands. From a double consciousness perspective as both a teacher online and in f2f classrooms and as a coach doing writing center work, this article reveals the struggles our students face reading in the digital age. But this article can also be a jumping off point to possible inform how you will teach digital reading techniques and strategies in an f2f or online writing class.

Recommended by Anne Fleming

Things to Try

Google Play, iBooks, The Kindle app, The Canvas app…and other eReader apps

Beyond Highlighting: How to Get the Most From Your Annotations by Rahul Saigal. Envato How-to Tutorials, https://computers.tutsplus.com/tutorials/beyond-highlighting-how-to-get-the-most-from-your-annotations–cms-20013 .

Common devices that most students bring to class everyday are equipped already with tools that facilitate close reading, highlighting, annotation, quick searches, and more. The benefit: every student can access a digital resource in class immediately. The detriment: instruction on how to use these annotation tools must differentiate because every device and software tool is just slightly different from student to student. The article above offers a nice overview: a starting place to develop a for-all-devices lesson on effective digital reading and annotation.

Hypothes.is

Skills and Strategies | Annotating to Engage, Analyze, Connect and Create by Jeremy Dean and Katherine Schulton. The Learning Network: Teaching and Learning with the New York Times, 12 November 2015, https://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/12/skills-and-strategies-annotating-to-engage-analyze-connect-and-create/?_r=0.

Jeremy Dean is the creator of Hypothes.is, an annotation program, but this isn’t an ad. They discuss the definition of annotating, different programs for doing it, and detailed ways to use it with students.

Recommended by Lisa Lane

Perusall

Individual and Team Annotation Effects on Students’ Reading Comprehension, Critical Thinking, and Meta-cognitive Skills by Tristan E. Johnson, Thomas N. Archibald, and Gershon Tenenbaum. Collaboration across Florida State University and ADL Co-Lab,11 June 2010, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2010.05.014

This article has been uploaded into Perusall, a collaborative annotation tool that can be added to a Canvas course. You can explore Perusall and annotate the above article on annotation using Perusall by first joining our WritingwithMachines course or you can enjoy a demonstration of this tool by Lisa Lane during our Zoom meeting on March 8th from 7:00-8:00 pm.

Recommended by Lisa Lane

 

The Third Thing
J. Williams

I am looking for the third thing.  It’s the transition quest.  Going online and looking for your on-the-ground class is a fool’s errand.  Leaving behind everything that worked face-to-face is foolish.  So — the third thing.  It’s not a marriage or an offspring or an evolution.  In my experience teaching online, it’s something that hasn’t yet been built.

My ideas are still steeping.  However, I want to develop a classroom online that has qualities like a one-click environment, which is one where a single click will take a student where he or she needs to go; a human environment, which is one where students can see and hear the human in their peers and professor (This would require better integration of audio and video.); and an all-inclusive environment, which is one that does not limit participation or create unnecessary hierarchies of learning through the overuse of fixed synchronous participation.  My course currently is, and for the near-future will remain, a module-based course.  The emphasis in my course will be reading, research, and writing, so tools that facilitate development of these skills will be prominent, like forums that allow discussion of the reading and collaboration through writing workshops.  I would hope, if well built, students will want to be present and that they will be able to present.

Links:

Unit 1: https://wordpress.miracosta.edu/writingwithmachines/2017/09/18/without-my-illegible-handwriting-how-will-they-learn-anything/

Unit 2: https://wordpress.miracosta.edu/writingwithmachines/2017/10/03/time-place-and-manner/

Unit 3: https://wordpress.miracosta.edu/writingwithmachines/2017/10/19/in-the-online-environment-nothing-is-until-it-is/

Unit 4: https://miracosta.instructure.com/courses/10248/discussion_topics/24702

My Dream Course!
My Dream Course! avatar

My dream online course consists of three core principles: communication, engagement, and risk-taking.

Communication is obviously key to any class, but with the absence of a F2F setting, I want to do everything in my power to amp up the discussion in the online classroom. I was thinking of ways to enhance online communication over the last few weeks and I thought of how I could scaffold the discussion. Essentially, I would try to break down the online communication in a way that mirrors my F2F class. First, I would ask a smaller group of students to have a discussion (perhaps via Google Docs or Zoom).  After the small group discussion, I would ask students to write an individual post expanding on an interesting point from their group. After the individual posts, I would ask students to respond to a different person’s response outside of their original group. This scaffolding would ideally build stronger conversations throughout.

When it comes to engagement, what I see being the “best” would be my presence.  Since I will not be meeting with the students F2F, I want to make sure that my students view me as being available. I would hold virtual office hours (much like some of you already do), which could possibly turn into a larger group discussion if multiple students show up. I would also build in multiple opportunities to students to get feedback from me prior to a due date. The main thing here is making sure my students see my engagement and realize that the online course is the same as a F2F course in terms of my investment.

My dream course is also one built on risks. I, as an instructor, need to take more risks when it comes to relying on technology. I need to become more familiar with tools like screencast-o-matic, Zoom, and just get used to recording myself. I also would want to attempt to do some video feedback in lieu of one-on-one conferences. Becoming more familiar with these items will most likely help me in my F2F classes as well. I also want my students to take risks in my online course. I would like them to work in alternative mediums such as a mag or another digital platform. I feel like incorporating new, exciting mediums into the writing class could also help the engagement of my course.

Overall, I am leaving with this semester with some wonderful ideas and I look forward to attempting them.

-Sean

Here are the links to my previous posts:

 

 

 

 

Accessibility Across the Board
Accessibility Across the Board avatar

First of all, I want to apologize for the lateness of this blog post.

The assigned readings for this week were fascinating. I used to be a Luddite in terms of using technology in the classroom because I was concerned with access issues amongst students, and I preferred keeping the majority class in the analog world. I would use Blackboard for only the essential things (announcements/essay submissions/etc.), but I tried to keep the course grounded in the physical classroom.  Over the past year or so, and in response to this learning community, I have started to place more faith in the digital sphere. The shift to Canvas also helped facilitate this change. While reading through these articles, I picked out multiple points that I either need to think about, or points I thought about when making the shift.

  • The CCCC points out that a “proactive approach to physical and pedagogical access is superior to one that includes “added on” or retrofitted alternatives.” This point resounds with me because it really does represent how my class as changed over the past year. Whereas the Blackboard course was kind of forced to fit in the class, the redesign with Canvas allowed me to restructure and rethink my utilization of the digital sphere. Canvas is a part of my class, not just a supplement.
  • I discovered the Canvas app at the beginning of the semester and recommended it to my students with smart phones or tablets. I love that students can easily pull up prompts/texts to follow along, and it is very helpful during office hours when I am not in front of a desktop. This jump into the mobile platform has also made me aware of how I organize my Canvas course as well as how I upload my documents.
  • I received feedback last semester from a student about the way I organized files online. Based on the feedback, I believe my course has the clear, concise organization that the articles discuss.
  • There are definitely areas I need to improve on though; I have to admit that I did not do enough education on Canvas as I should have done at the beginning of the semester. I provided links to the Canvas tutorials, but I definitely could have done more to prepare my students. I just found the recorded workshop (Thanks, Jim!) on Canvas and will definitely go over that next semester. I also need to revisit my documents and make sure they are fully accessible.

These readings definitely pointed out a weakness that I never really thought of before. While I try to ensure that all of my students receive the help/accommodations they need in the physical classroom, I need to spend more time making sure my online classroom space does the same.

In the Online Environment, Nothing Is Until It Is
J. Williams

I, as well, felt a bit befuddled by the scope of the accommodation discussion.  There is a lot that needs doing.  I am happy to see that I have many successes, according to the best practices we have been introduced to in the reading, in addition to the improvements I am committed to making.  I do well with making my course easy to navigate and the information easy to consume for many kinds of readers.  I don’t hide information behind a cascade of clicks, I don’t wall it off in ways that might confuse a screen reader, and I label links in descriptive ways.  I need to be better at communicating feedback in multiple modalities.

Reading through the first two articles we have been presented with for this week’s thinking, I was reminded, again, of a topic that came up in our last session of Writing with Machines: In the online classroom, everything must be manufactured.  One way to consider this is in terms of our online persona.  As instructors in a traditional classroom, our persona emits as a function of our presence.  We don’t really have to consciously create it.  We are who we are.  Mannerisms, tone of voice, the way we walk a room, our handwriting — these all communicate something about us.  In the online environment, these cues don’t exist, for the most part.  If we want to have a personality when teaching online (and all of the literature suggests we do), then we have to manufacture it, quite consciously, in addition to teaching, rather than as a byproduct of teaching.  Community was another element that required manufacturing.  Whereas in the classroom there are opportunities for community building that just happen because we all inhabit the same space once or twice a week, in the online environment, neither the space nor the inhabiting exist unless they are manufactured by the instructor.

I find this discussion relevant when considering accommodation, as well.  In the traditional classroom, there are elements of accommodation that are, in essence, automatic, either through institutional support or the ease with which the accommodation can be met in person.  I recall a student I had my first semester as a teacher … er, some number of years ago.  She was, essentially, deaf, though she could make out some sounds.  She stopped me after class one day and told me that she could do without an interpreter if I would make sure to face the class, rather than the white board, when lecturing.  I, at times, like to scribble while I talk.  Turns out she was a top-rate lip reader.  In the span of time it took to have the conversation, the accommodation had been made.  Now, in an online environment, if I post a PowerPoint, for example, with a voice over lecture, I need to manufacture the accommodation by captioning the presentation.  And, when I read through the list of effective practices in this week’s reading, I see that, for the most part, accommodation requires manufacturing, and the manufacturing is largely left to the instructor.

Accessibility is a compelling topic.  We have moral and legal obligations to meet the accessibility needs of our students, and I believe that, as educators, this is something we are committed to doing.  However, the online environment creates both opportunities and perils for students in need of accommodation — and for instructors trying to meet those needs.

Our reading appropriately acknowledges this, and acknowledges the strange situation that most online instructors face when moving from on-the-ground teaching to online: that when they leave the comfort of the classroom, they also leave behind a suite of institutional support for ensuring that students get the accommodations they need.  Such inequities exist across numerous forms of needed accommodation in the online environment, and in most cases sorting them out falls to the instructor, where the same wouldn’t be true in a traditional, on campus teaching assignment.

Why this is, I do not know.

Time, place, and manner.
J. Williams

I definitely want my students to collaborate.  Two reasons, primarily: 1) I see this kind of interaction as a fundamental remedy for the distance in distance education, and 2) it’s also a key component of my on-the-ground courses.

However.

In the spring I often inserted a caution into my discussions of online learning whenever the conversation drifted toward synchronous tasks/learning, and I think that the topic of collaboration certainly knocks on this door.  The text, in part, discusses the topic with this in mind.  And, my first reason above for wanting to integrate collaborative learning into the online environment — drawing down the distance between online learners — would certainly benefit from a little synchronicity.  Yet, I feel like students sign up for online course to take advantage of the flexibility the courses offer, and that contract begins to erode when instructors establish time, day, and place requirements.  I often have students in the military taking my online courses from distant time zones or on submarines, which really limits their ability to participate synchronously.

Yet.

I like my on-the-ground group assignments.  They rock the course outcomes.  And they definitely need synchronicity — in their current form — to maximize their benefits.  Small groups that can set their own schedule for synchronicity begin to address the issue I mention above, but they, too, make impossible demands on some of my online learners, which is why, in the past 10 years, I have assigned no synchronous work in my online courses.  I have made some on-the-ground group assignments into individual assignments, but I have mostly scrapped the collaborative work that needs synchronicity in favor of other methods.

The collaborative assignment I’d most like to migrate is a group quiz I offer in my on-the-ground English 100 courses.  The quiz is assigned to groups of three to four students and takes a full meeting to complete (1:50) if the students are diligent, know their stuff — and collaborate effectively.  The students are presented with an article to read that articulates a position on an issue of the day, then the quiz requires that they demonstrate competence in critical reading, writing, researching, and MLA Style.

I know that in Canvas you can create quizzes and assign them to particular cohorts of students, so that is not difficult.  However, in class (I just administered one of these today) the students delegate, huddle in pairs or triplets over computer screens then jump to another computer and compare, check each others work, teach each other, separate the pages on the quiz and pass them around, scribble, cross out, use scratch paper, reference multiple web sites — in other words, they collaborate, and they do it in a messy, real-world way that is hard to translate to the online environment.  (I would say this parallels the issue I discussed two weeks ago with translating my written feedback to the online environment.)

To approximate this on-the-ground experience, I think they’d need a live video chat/conference, to be able to see each other’s screens, and to be able to all work off of the same live document (the quiz) — to start.

Oh, and they all need to be able to schedule a time to collaborate.

Thoughts?

Group Work in a Digital Class
Group Work in a Digital Class avatar

                As an instructor who builds his class around group work, I am excited for the possibilities that the digital classroom opens. In my F2F class, I always have an activity that allows the students to put the idea we just discussed into action. We always follow these activities up with a discussion about how the idea came through in the activity. While this structure has worked well, I have always thought these group activities would benefit from a slower and longer application of the idea.

 I think the main benefit in transferring these group activities online is time.  For instance, in my class today, I had students work in groups to write a brief speech on any topic they wanted (I urged a light-hearted topic given the sad events of last night). The rules for this assignment were simple: write a professional speech you could deliver to fellow students and sneak in a few logical fallacies. While the groups had an amazing time trying to mask fallacies with professional language and logical support, the discussion and sharing portion of the assignment had to be trimmed due to time constraints. If this activity was translated for an OWC, groups could collaborate on a google doc and in chat; this collaboration technique would also afford agency to those students who often get steamrolled in group conversations. Not only could students spend more time incorporating logical support, but other groups could visit and see how their peers are approaching the activity. The discussion/decompression aspect of the assignment could also be developed and allow more time for students to reflect prior to responding. I imagine all the wonderful conversation that could arise in the class discussion of these speeches, but I also wonder if that hilarity I witnessed in the classroom today would still be there.  With a creative activity like this, it is those rapid-fire conversations students have that make the activity so effective.  If I desynchronize an activity that is supposed to be fun—by my definition of fun—will those funny moments where students wittily respond to and build upon each other disappear? It is difficult for me to know for sure until I actually implement this activity online, but I guess I could always require a synchronous meeting or Zoom for the brainstorming portion.

I am also intrigued with how peer review will translate into the OWC.  I enjoy having a Q&A before each workshop, and I really enjoy hearing students have an honest “state of affairs” about their work. I know these conversations could be pushed into the digital space, but the synchronous nature of the F2F workshop is so appealing. I love hearing students give meaningful feedback; it feels like validation (they remembered my lecture!), so maybe this concern is more selfish. However, the one thing that I think will improve in this switch is the participation rate. I have noticed that my attendance seems to dip when it comes to workshops in my course. I imagine this is because students procrastinate and bail on class to avoid the guilt (even though I recommend they come regardless), but in the asynchronous online workshop, students could give feedback over the course a few days. This wider window could help those procrastinators catch up, and could facilitate a much higher participation rate. With how ubiquitous technology has become, and with so much of our daily communication happening in a digital space, it will be interesting to see how successful these conversations turn out to be.

Feedback with a face
Feedback with a face avatar

It is ironic that feedback is the discussion topic for this week as I am using this discussion to take a much needed break from grading. I had a very difficult time with grading my submissions through Canvas as I did not know I could still grade through Turnitin’s feedback center (where my comment bank lives), so I had to type out all of my comments in canvas and did not realize my mistake until half way through my second class, but it was too late. However, one of the positives of this mess up is that it did allow me to rethink my comment bank.

I was part of an online feedback learning community at CSUSM a few years ago, so I have a comment bank I have been using for a while. While that has seemed to serve me well the last couple years, I do worry about the comments not being…. Legitimate? I am blanking on a good word to choose here, but “cookie cutter” comes to mind as well. A comment bank is obviously extremely helpful for in-text comments, but I do worry that a student could see those cut and paste comments as laziness on my end. I give a decent end of paper summary/response/justification which tends to be more personal and specific, but there is also the issue of managing time. What good is a page of feedback if a student is not getting it back in time to use on his/her next paper? So I can see how the comment bank is good, but I worry about how impersonal it may sound.  Honestly, I would prefer to grade all of my papers by hand as I love to use symbols/shorthand to help speed the process along, but the logistics of managing/handling 100+ physical papers make me nauseous.

If, or when, I transfer into the OWCourse, I definitely foresee using the video/voice comment tools. I love discussing a student’s paper face to face during office hours, and while a video comment section won’t necessarily be synchronous, I imagine it could produce a more authentic discussion on my end. My voice/face in conjunction with those dangerous, bordering on cookie cutter, comments/annotations could fix my worry about sounding lackadaisical. I think it would be helpful to reinforce the idea of reading/responding to a paper out loud as opposed to just skimming it. Students could hear their errors, and would hopefully see the benefit of breaking away from the screen for the revision process.

I am also very intrigued with the peer-review section Warnock discussed as online peer feedback is something I am trying in my f2f course this semester (with the help of Google docs). While I would love to eventually cobble together something like Chad’s video response activity for peer feedback, I am fascinated to see how taking the peer review discussion online is going to pan out.

In the end, I think the concept I am most excited for when it comes to feedback is to make the process less digital and incorporate more of my lovely face into the mix (with the help of the best webcam money can buy).